Name: Keith Wheeler
Office sought: Representative, State House 50th District
Town of residence: Oswego
Education / training:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.A. in Economics
Oswego High School, Diploma
Where are you currently employed? What is your title?
I am the State Representative of the 50th District and the owner of Responsive Network Services LLC based in Oswego.
Have you ever held elective or appointive public office before? If yes, please list those offices.
State Representative, 50th District, 2015-present
Bristol Township Trustee, 2013-2017
Kendall County Republican Central Committee Chairman, 2008-2009
Kendall County Republican Candidate Support Committee Chairmen, 2006-2008
Bristol 5 Elected Precinct Committeeman, 2008-present
Is it possible to eliminate the state’s budget deficit without a tax increase? Please explain.
Yes. For many of my colleagues in the House, this question leads directly to answers based on new taxes or higher rates of current taxes. I am opposed to creating new or higher taxes. There shouldn’t even be a discussion until we have actually implemented the necessary reforms on the expense side of the ledger. It’s hard to justify to the overtaxed Illinois taxpayer that the state is going to raise their taxes further to pay for bloat and inefficiencies that aren’t politically convenient to reform. A growing economy based on a growing population would lead to additional state revenue.
Would you support legislation to place a freeze on property taxes levied by school districts and other local units of government?
Yes. Property tax relief is vitally important to the residents of the 50th District. Virtually any kind of property tax relief would be welcomed. There has been a lot of attention on K-12 education funding as that makes up more than 2/3 of a typical property tax bill. The evidence-based funding model for local education has been in place for two budget cycles now so school districts should be receiving substantially more state funding than they have in previous years when proration of the old funding formula was in place. Increased state funding for K-12 education is an important step in finding a better balance to relieve the pressure on school districts’ reliance on property taxes. I am reminded on a regular basis that rising property taxes hurt seniors on fixed incomes, young families just trying to get started, and small businesses who aren’t yet profitable (which then has a dampening effect on job creation).
Please name the state programs you would work to eliminate or cut to reduce the state’s budget deficit.
There are a number of reforms that can be instituted to reduce state spending. In the most recent budget implementation bill (BIMP), there were pension reform measures to allow buyouts related of the cost of living adjustment at a significant discount to the state. These reforms will save hundreds of millions of dollars and reduce our long-term unfunded liabilities. There are more substantial pension reform measures which deserve a look. I have signed onto a comprehensive pension reform bill that would have a dramatic impact on costs. In addition, reforms to workers’ compensation would not only lower costs for private-sector employers, but those reforms would also save state and local governments nearly $200 million. Those same workers’ compensation reforms would also lower costs for not-for-profit agencies who are facing difficult budget situations as well.
Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?
I do not currently support any of the proposals we have seen in Springfield to increase the minimum wage. The minimum wage was never intended to support families. Minimum wage jobs are intended to give those entering the work force a wage that is fair for someone with no experience. There are currently ample opportunities for adults to better themselves by attending a community college, an apprenticeship program, or start a business of their own. There is evidence to suggest that dramatic minimum wage increases can have a devastating impact on the communities who have implemented them. Should this proposal be enacted in Illinois it would expedite the already high number of business leaving the state for better opportunities elsewhere.
Do you support the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act? If not, what is the state’s role—if any—in providing health care services for those with low income or no income or those with chronic health conditions?
The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is based on the idea that the federal government would be picking up 100% tab for the new enrollment for the first three years. The federal government’s contribution would then decline to 90% by 2020. However, that level of contribution could be changed by Congress at any time. As the federal commitment drops, the state’s commitment rises. In our experience with Medicaid, the costs have always come in higher than predicted. Ultimately, that will impact our state’s ability to balance our state budget which already has its share of problems.
What are your positions on the following issues:
I am pro-life.
I support students learning in the environment that suits them best. While our community is proud of and very supportive of our local schools, there are families in other areas where schools are failing and those parents need school choice. Those students don’t deserve to be trapped in failing schools when there are alternatives that could provide those students with an education that gives them a chance to succeed. Our country is based on the idea of competition and free will. In addition, state taxpayers should expect their hard-earned tax dollars to be used as efficiently as possible where those tax dollars can have the best impact for students and families.
Increased regulations on firearms
While I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, I try to look at every proposal with an open mind. I recently voted in favor of the firearms restraining order bill which has an important focus on mental health. It should be emphasized that some of the gun violence that we hear about, especially in Chicago, would be better addressed by enforcing the laws that are already on the books- especially for criminals who have previously used guns in the commission of violent crimes.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana?
I support the current medical marijuana pilot program which is in place. I am still researching the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana.